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20.03.2007
HINERANGI VAIMOSO

Hot cross buns have become the latest target of the fun police.

The seasonal treat now come with a health warning labelling it as fuel for the ever-growing obesity epidemic.

Diabetes New Zealand has warned that hot cross buns are equivalent to two to three slices of bread.

Hawke's Bay bakers, many of whom have made award-winning versions of the Easter treat, are hitting back saying it's not what we're eating, it's how we're eating.

Jason Heaven of Heaven's Bakery, the winning bakery in the 2006 Bakels Supreme Pie Awards, said people need to remember hot cross buns were a treat, not a meal.

"Hot cross buns are an indulgence food and not something you would eat a lot of," Mr Heaven said.

"As with all indulgence foods, you should eat them in moderation."

Hot cross buns are already available in supermarkets and bakeries, almost a month before Easter.

Mr Heaven said many of the buns found in bakeries were made using more traditional recipes including sultanas and spices but due to market demands supermarkets tend to add more sugar, preservatives and sometimes chocolate chips, mostly to entice children.

While a hot cross bun from a bakery may sell for about $1.50 each, a six-pack on supermarket shelves can retail for as little as $2.29.

Packets offering two extra buns for free have also become a draw card.

Mr Heaven said for many New Zealanders, the obesity trap could be blamed on our need for convenience and value.

"That's just how society is these days. People like convenience, so it's easy to grab a bun for lunch and go," he said.

"Dieticians will always find something to blame and in 100 years' time they'll still find something to blame. The buns are not a problem as long as you eat one at a time, not five."

Neville Jackson, of Jackson's Bakery and Cafe;, said fresh buns were definitely the way to buy.

"It all depends where people buy them from. People should make sure to go to their local bakery to find the buns with less sugar, less preservatives and less fat," he said.

Mr Jackson said there were many variables to be considered including the size of the bun, its ingredients, and how much butter was spread on it.

So, if you love hot cross buns, try eating either a smaller sized bun or a half bun - and go easy on the butter.

Denise Neal, of Muff's Pantry in Tomoana Road, said she believed the main problem was that buns were available too early.

"It used to be a treat to get them a week before Easter, which was fine. Unfortunately pressure from supermarkets has made the product available early, which means we started making the buns almost three months before Easter," Mrs Neal said.

"It is all about moderation, so to blame the bun is ridiculous. Save it as a treat just before Easter and just enjoy it."